Mozilla, creators of popular internet browser Firefox, claim Microsoft is restricting user choice in Windows 8, by only supporting Internet Explorer.

In a potential online PR disaster for Microsoft, both Mozilla and Google have raised public concerns about the future of Windows operating systems.

Harvey Anderson, from Mozilla’s general counsel, claims Microsoft will return Windows 8 users to the “digital dark ages”, when only Internet Explorer was available to navigate the web.

Anderson says Microsoft is refusing to allow Firefox, Chrome, or indeed any other browser to work on its new operating system, which will be loaded on ARM processor chips.

Mozilla claims Microsoft is planning for its new Windows RT (Windows running on ARM) to run in two environments – a ‘Classic’ mode, and a ‘Metro’ mode which will run apps.

“However, Windows on ARM prohibits any browser except for Internet Explorer from running in the privileged ‘Windows Classic’ environment,” Anderson said. “In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security, to which users have grown accustomed.

“Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same.”

Anderson said the decision would restrict user choice whilst also killing competition and innovation.

“We encourage Microsoft to remain firm on its user choice principles. Excluding third-party browsers contradicts Microsoft’s own published Principles, that users and developers have relied upon for years,” he said.

Anderson’s comments may hit home hard with Microsoft, which has already faced antitrust action in the past. Back in 2001, DOJ vs Microsoft saw the firm forced to allow PC sellers to include non-Microsoft software on new computers. The European Commission was also involved, leading to Windows users being given a choice of browsers in Europe.

Google has backed Mozilla’s concerns. A spokesman told V3: “We share the concerns Mozilla has raised… we’ve always welcomed innovation in the browser space across all platforms, and strongly believe that having great competitors makes us all work harder.”

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